Image Above: ©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_01.
From the director of Darwin’s Nightmare, nominated in 2005 for Best Documentary, a bleak and disturbing indictment of the current exploitation in strife-ridden Sudan by destructive outside entities is presented as a continuum of the willful insensitivity of European colonialism over decades. In Africa the invasiveness is ramped up by the addition of China to the already crowded field occupied by Europe and the US. The picture created is one of an unimpeded vulturism with no one to protect the resources, the land or the people.
©Hubert Sauper, Sauper.
©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_Sput nik Mediterraneo,
The country and the people have been raped and pillaged, divided and displaced, impoverished and ignored. Corrupt politicians, voracious foreign contractors seeking oil, NGO’s and religious groups attempting to help have all added to the utterly incoherent alien intrusion which has created a terrible landscape of extremes. The natural beauty and diversity of the land has been scarred by heavy equipment excavating and building sprawling industrial compounds and toxic facilities which are poisoning the air and the water, destroying the landscape, isolating the indigenous inhabitants from each other and destroying their way of life. All of this brings no benefit to those whose land has been sacrificed.
©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_crying soldiers.
©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_Toposa children.
The title is a wry nod to “Star Trek” - whenthe invaders arrive on a new planet and declare their benign intent. The next line is: “But we’ll defend ourselves if necessary.” This is not an inaccurate analogy. The locals have a fable about aliens who arrive in their land to colonize and then leave to go colonize the moon. There has certainly been no thought to what havoc they are causing and what wreckage is being left behind.
©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_05.
©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_07
I came into the film hoping to be somewhat better informed about the situation in Sudan and I fear that all that I have gleaned is that everything I thought was terrible and unfortunate for the country is even worse than I imagined. It is truly heartbreaking to see the “noble savages” juxtaposed with the callous, crude outsiders behaving in incomprehensible ways as they obvliously ride roughshod over anything in their way neither seeing nor caring about an entire world which their presence is destroying.
©Hubert Sauper, WeComeAsFriends_singing school children.
The cinema verite style of filming makes it realistic as we see the strange aircraft which the director built in order to film up close and personal. But I felt that the editing or lack thereof seemed somewhat chaotic and annoying - as if everything had been included in a somewhat patchy and random way. There was no narrative arc and there were unnecessarily extended scenes which were repetitive. But maybe that was the point. The directorial style is a mirror of the situation and the medium is the message. At any rate, it is not a pretty picture - but one that warrants attention.